The Report: Part XI: A Special Counsel
October 14, 2019 11:06 AM - Subscribe
It's May 17, 2017. White House Counsel Don McGahn is in the Oval Office with the president. McGahn's job is to represent the office of the presidency, which isn't quite the same as representing the president personally. It's a delicate line to walk, and Trump hasn't made the job any easier. McGahn is supposed to act as the point of contact between the White House and the Department of Justice, to ensure all the rules are being followed. But the president has made clear, he's not interested in following the rules. Trump has already fired his FBI director. That's why McGahn is in the Oval that morning, they need to interview a new nominee for the position. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is there too.Sessions interrupts the meeting. He has an urgent phone call from the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, so he steps outside to take it. Sessions returns a moment later and relays the message: Rosenstein has appointed a Special Counsel to oversee the Russia investigation. It's the former FBI director, Robert Mueller. Trump slumps back in his chair. He says, "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I'm fucked."
In this episode, we tell the story of how Trump learns Mueller has been appointed—an event Trump believes represents the “end” of his presidency. The president tries to claim that Mueller has conflicts of interest, but even Trump’s own staff insist these reasons are frivolous and pretextual. When the president learns he is personally under investigation, he directs that Mueller be fired—prompting his White House Counsel to threaten to resign. As more news reports break about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the president finds himself stuck with Mueller. So he turns up the heat on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, pressuring him privately and attacking him publicly. And Trump turns to a loyal friend outside of government, former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, to carry a message directing the Attorney General to limit Mueller’s probe. Robert Mueller evaluates all of this for obstruction of justice. And unlike in some prior episodes, here, the special counsel finds substantial evidence that all elements of obstruction of justice are met. But Mueller doesn’t make any accusations; he just lays out the dots for anyone who wants to connect them.